Comments from Alan Reid Q.C., Ottawa, Ontario
Where I differ in emphasis, perhaps, from Theobald and Dr. Eaton, is in my understanding of the relationship between systems thinking and individual consciousness. Both of them are very deep into changing "the system," though they recognize that individual consciousness is a component of that process. I am more inclined to think that the most important element of change is individual consciousness; that systems are reflections of thoughts and beliefs that must change if we are to perceive a different system. For me systems thinking opens up another way of understanding and describing our experiences, just as traditional math and science did. What blocks the paradigm shift, as I am seeing it, is our fixation on the "reality" of what we perceive as the external world. There is a wonderful clip from A Course in Miracles that I use sometimes: "Don't confuse your experience of reality with reality." I think we do that all the time; we want to externalize our experiences, and then understand the "reality" of the external manifestations of our patterns of thinking. Hence we have concepts such as science, math, law, economics etc.
The same problem is evident working with people in my own field, conflict resolution. We tend to confuse our perceptions with "fact" or "reality". We see the problem outside ourselves, rather than in our thought and belief patterns. I see old paradigm thinking about conflict and its resolution (law courts, authority etc.) as a major block to new paradigm thinking. Our ego, which is the symbol of separation in our old paradigm thought system, is a major block to the integrative thinking that is necessary for new paradigm approaches to problem solving. In the new thinking, our problem is already solved; we have just lost sight of the solution by being caught up in fragmentation. As long as we are thinking in a fragmented way, we will be stuck in conflict, and it will block our access to holistic thinking. Thus, new paradigm thinking about communities and governance, and how conflict resolution helps us to function in community, must be developed in parallel with new paradigm thinking about systems of decision making, and more generally about the world we experience. The shift in consciousness that helps us deal with our own stuff is the same shift that helps us deal with the world's stuff. Indeed, it is the same stuff.
I think therefore, that any project such as Mandala Village must pay a lot of attention to consciousness, and at least as much at the individual as at the community level. There must be a lot of attention to relationships and how decisions and choices are made. New technology, like anything else, can work for us or against us, depending on the consciousness with which we create, receive and use it.
I do not see the project as an "escape" from the world, or as being utopian in its objective. Rather, I am attracted to it as a learning process for those involved and for others who may observe or be touched in some way by it. To me it is an opportunity to demonstrate how people can live and work together under grace.
The only "law" I would stipulate for the internal governance of the community would be the "law" stated by Jesus in Matthew 22, to love God and our neighbors, and the corollary stated somewhere in John where he instructs his disciples to love others as he has loved them.
With such a commitment, the community is surrendered to the sovereignty of the divine. The rest of the "law" would not be legal rules, as we understand law, today, but instead statements about specific "expectations" of community members and about the processes to be used to communicate with one another about failed expectations. This is really about healing, which would supplant as the goal the faultfinding, attack and punishment, which underlie our conventional legal system.
There is a wonderful book by Rupert Ross entitled "Returning to the Teachings". It not only explains aboriginal concepts of justice, it provides insightful guidance to any community as to how it can respond with dignity and compassion, in the interests both of individual and community healing, to failed expectations that will inevitably be experienced.
Among the challenges, of course, will be the traditional ones that arise in any community, those of status, wealth, opportunity and so on, which engage our egos. This is where individual consciousness is so important, and why the "law" as I have envisioned it has to be recognized as the foundation and fulcrum of all teaching, learning and personal and commercial interaction. The simpler the law is, the more impact it will have. Through dialogue, round tables, arts and education, respect and understanding is nurtured, all from the spiritual base of the law.
A major concern to address centres less on the internal law of the community and more on the interface between the community and the outside world. How does the "sovereignty" of the community fit with the sovereignty upon which rests the Canadian Constitution? Laws of Canada and British Columbia will extend into the Mandala Village community; regulating education, health, employment, land development, construction and so many other areas that are crucial to building and living in the community. Much of it will be perceived as intrusive and as countering objectives and expectations that are identified within the community.
Other applications, of course, will be seen as helpful, such as patent protection for technology that is developed within the community, copyright protection for artistic and literary creations, and other laws that support and protect the community in its dealings with the outside world.
In some ways, the community may feel parallel frustrations to those experienced by aboriginal peoples who saw their cultures ravaged and constrained by the laws and political thinking of Europeans, and continue to do so.
One of the things aboriginals are attempting to do is to negotiate special arrangements and understandings that will allow them to make community choices about a lot of things they cannot presently deal with. This could be an important precedent that will eventually open the door for other communities to negotiate special arrangements. Both politically and constitutionally, it will become increasingly difficult for governments to resist special arrangements with groups that can show merit in their requests for increased sovereignty over aspects of their development.
The sovereignty pressures from Quebec, British Columbia and the north may gradually attune Canadian governments and citizens to recognize new paradigms for "national" and "provincial" organization and sovereignty.
That will not happen overnight, but I see the Mandala Village as an opportunity to advance the thinking that has already begun with Theobald, the aboriginals, Quebec sovereigntists and many, many others about a paradigm shift in how we govern ourselves.
One purpose of a project such as this is to show how communities can be structured differently and, though diverse in objective and underlying purpose and philosophy, can contribute to a richer Canada and a stronger planet. Part of the exercise is learning how to move peacefully from the old to a new paradigm.
In Course terms, it is bringing the darkness to the light, or perhaps more directly, carrying our lights into the world. Special arrangements might be negotiated quickly and easily; others would be more difficult and would take more time. Through all of this, the underlying law of love and forgiveness must be extended outwardly and non-judgmentally to the unillumined that remain in the old paradigm.
A message I took recently from Joel Goldsmith's "A Parenthesis in Eternity" impressed itself on me: 'it is not for the illumined to judge the unillumined as inferior; if they do, they are simply demonstrating their own lack of illumination.' He put it better than that, but that is the rather humbling message I took from him.
It is important that the project not be perceived as "cultish," which is why locating its objectives and ideas within larger socio-economic perspectives such as those offered by Theobald and others could be advantageous.
This perhaps can be the start of a dialogue about some of these matters. There is much to be discussed.